After saying au revoir to France, a Kiwi family are enjoying la belle vie in their chic Christchurch apartment
When Kiwi singer-songwriter-turned-business owner Flip Grater and French husband and fellow business owner Youssef Iskrane moved from Paris to Flip’s hometown Christchurch five years ago, finding a rental was a bit of a culture shock.
“We found renting in New Zealand was super inconvenient and really quite unpleasant a lot of the time,” says Flip. “It’s hard to really feel settled and secure in a place, to make it your home and to make changes to the place, when you’re renting here. In Europe, we were painting walls and hanging whatever we wanted.”
In 2019, the couple and daughter Anaïs, now five, were living in Sumner, but found the commute to their newly established cafe, vegan deli and butchery food production business Grater Goods in Sydenham “a bit of a ’mare”. She spent a long time perfecting her recipes for the Chch Chorizo, Plant Pastrami, Roast Furkey and Beet Wellington among other ingenious plant-based charcuterie creations now sold from her Sydenham delicatessen, as well as other delis throughout the country.
“There was a moment for us after the mosque shooting where we were in lockdown and so far away from where our daughter was at preschool. We sat down and decided we really needed to be within walking distance so we can get to each other.”
A lucky find
A few months later, the trio were happily installed in a “beautiful, just really glorious” freshly renovated apartment in the central city, an outcome that Flip describes as “super awesome and lucky”.
“It’s the closest thing we could find to a Parisian apartment in Christchurch!”One of just six apartments in the historic brick P&D Duncan building built in 1903 (and one of very few buildings of its kind to survive the earthquakes), not only had it been immaculately refurbished to a high spec along with strengthening beams and double-glazing on the original arched windows, Flip says they were also lucky enough to find a rare New Zealand landlord who would let them hang their treasured art.
“We’ve got pieces of art and mirrors and things we’ve taken from rental to rental in New Zealand, and every time they’ve just leaned against things. Even though we could hang them now, there’s a couple of things we still lean just because we’ve got in the habit of it!”
An aesthetic balancing act
The interior style of the apartment is a melange of both Flip and Youssef’s aesthetics. “I probably have more energy to give that than Youssef does but we definitely both have our styles,” says Flip.
“I think I would probably be a minimalist if I lived alone, whereas he would be the exact opposite. When I first met Youssef he lived in this beautiful Parisian apartment that he had filled – every single surface and corner – with stacks of books and knick-knacks and found objects and artwork and photos everywhere. It was pure chaos and it was kind of beautiful, but I could not live like that. We’ve found a balance, I think, in our way of living now.”
Our blue heaven
“We’re all quite obsessed with blue so tonnes of our wardrobe is blue and when we tried to bring a bit more colour into the place, blue was the obvious choice,” says Flip.
“We’ve always been very monochromatic with our style, like right from our first Parisian apartment, we always had a whole black and white thing going on. Quite intentionally over the last year or so we’ve tried to bring a bit more colour into our design aesthetic.”
“We started by bringing blue into our workspace, this amazing colour that we used for our entire space at Grater Goods, and bringing in that dark blue really inspired me to bring a bit more blue and other colour – gold and a little mustard and things like that – into our home.”
Spaces to play
While the little family do occasionally miss having a backyard, they’ve more than made up for it with a growing collection of indoor plants and several very fun features for children. There’s a cosy mezzanine loft space reached only by a ladder and a rope swing, which Flip hung from the exposed beam in Anaïs’ bedroom one morning while she was at preschool. “She was pretty stoked when she got home!” says Flip.
The mezzanine adds another dimension to the apartment, which is used occasionally by guests but more often by Anaïs and her friends as a play space. Back downstairs, the family’s plant collection adds “a bit of fresh air and green and lushness” to the urban environment. “I feel like a really important part of living in such a small space is having lots of greenery – and it’s been fun to try to figure out what to get next,” says Flip.
“Anaïs names each plant as we get them – for example our favourite Monstera is called Doux Doux Flower (‘doux doux’ means ‘soft soft’ in French), and our latest palm is called Peter Rabbit – she really loves Peter Rabbit.”
Cubby holes & clever design
White walls, high ceilings and generous windows all help make the small apartment feel more spacious, as do the many integrated storage spaces throughout.
“The design is really clever in a few ways,” says Flip. “It’s got some really good storage, there’s almost like tiny rooms that are just for storage, which you wouldn’t even know about. There’s a couple under the stairs, and the bathroom has been done in a really smart way to stack the whiteware and have space for storage. And it has hidden cupboards that are actually mirrors – it took us six months to figure out they were more storage, it was like storage Christmas when we found those.”
Words Josie Steenhart. Photography Sarah Rowlands. Styling Tonia Shuttleworth.